The United States Senate has passed comprehensive, bipartisan immigration reform legislation — a big step forward in building a stronger, wiser, more humane country. Now the fate of this important bill is up to the House of Representatives — and they need to hear from us.
Women have much at stake in the immigration reform process. Did you know that 51 percent of undocumented immigrants are women? These women face the hardships of so many of the immigrants in our own family histories — our grandmothers and great grandmothers. They too are working to build a better life for their children — but without any legal protection.
There are 4 million immigrant family members waiting to enter the country, and 70 percent of those people are women.
The reform legislation aims to address the visa backlog problem, allowing the millions of women who depend on family-based visas to enter the country. This is a critical provision, as the creation of a new point system will reduce the number of available visas for family members. However, by resolving the backlog of people waiting to enter the country, and allowing new green card recipients to bring families with them, more women will have access to visas overall.
Sadly, too many immigrant women who enter the U.S. rely financially on an abusive husband or significant other. Not surprisingly, they feel pressured into remaining in their abusive relationships out of fear of deportation. The immigration reform bill would double the number of visas for victims of domestic violence. In addition, women applying for citizenship with a spouse will have recourse should their relationship status change.
Immigration reform will mean a better life for millions — and a stronger U.S. economy. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act will reduce the federal deficit by $197 billion over 10 years, then by $700 billion over the next 10 years. As important, newly documented workers will provide $1.2 trillion to Social Security over 36 years, increasing its solvency at a time when baby boomers are retiring. Granting citizenship to undocumented workers could create 159,000 jobs per year and raise an additional $144 billion in tax revenue over 10 years. That’s the best package of cutting the deficit and building jobs we have seen for years.
Every year, at Passover, Jews around the world remind ourselves of our obligation to the strangers who live among us: “For you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” This year, we can be guided by that powerful tradition to make a difference.
Join National Jewish Democratic Council’s Women’s Leadership Network, and call your representative’s office. Urge them to represent you — and vote for comprehensive immigration reform.
Ann F. Lewis is former White House communications director for President Bill Clinton, and former senior adviser to the presidential campaign of Hillary Rodham Clinton. Barbara Goldberg Goldman is the president of Regal Domestics, Inc. and principal in Quorum, LLC. Both Lewis and Goldman are co-founders of NJDC’s Women’s Leadership Network.